Michelle Barker's books on Goodreads
Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)

The Beggar King The Beggar King
reviews: 8
ratings: 21 (avg rating 4.00)

Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories
reviews: 4
ratings: 15 (avg rating 4.07)

Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales
reviews: 4
ratings: 14 (avg rating 3.79)

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Wise Guy


As writers, we tend to hear voices. It’s one of the many things that gives us a reputation for being a little, well, odd.


There’s the voice of the Muse, whenever She/He feels likes showing up. And of course there’s that nasty Inner Critic we all know so well. But the voice I’d like to talk about today is our inner voice of wisdom.


Maybe yours sounds like Siri. Calm, in control, knows all the good restaurants. Or, if wonky grammar doesn’t send you to the nearest bridge, you might channel Yoda. My Wise Guy tends towards Gandalf. Long beard. Impressive magic staff. Never around when you need him, but shows up eventually.


Yes, we all have that voice. The trouble is, we don’t always listen to it.


You know. When you leave something in your story, knowing it doesn’t quite work but hoping no one will notice? When you try really really hard to make the square plot point fit into the round story hole – to the point where you’re dancing around in metaphorical circles explaining yourself because you just can’t kill that darling?


And there’s your Wise Guy all along saying, “That shit won’t fly, girlfriend, and you know it.”


Or in my case:



Or, God help you:



But you do it anyway. That would be you, ignoring your Wise Guy.


If you have a Trusted Reader (and please tell me it’s not your mother), no doubt he or she will call you on it. And you will sit there thinking – I knew. I knew that part of the story wasn’t working, but I wouldn’t listen.


I can’t say for sure why I don’t listen to my Wise Guy. Sometimes it’s laziness. I just can’t bear to rewrite the scene one more time. Sometimes it’s a strange kind of tunnel vision about the story that borders on toddler pig-headedness: I made it, that’s the way I wanted it, and that’s how it’s going to stay. Sometimes I treat him like the starving man’s banana: the one that’s a bit bruised and no one wants to eat, so it sits in the basket getting browner and being ignored.


Is there a way to access this wisdom? I think there is.


First of all, like most people, the more your Wise Guy gets listened to, the louder he (or she) tends to speak. So when Mr. Gandalf is telling you your character would never do a particular thing, don’t wait for Trusted Reader to call you out on it. Change it.


I’m also a great believer in long walks (alone, and in silence). I don’t know what the connection is. It might have something to do with mindless repetitive action, because dishwashing can also work, or sometimes even the shower. It could just be that our inner Wise Guy has a sense of humour and wants to catch us in situations where we’re unlikely to have a pen and paper handy.


Next time that voice tries to say something, get quiet and listen. Chances are it won’t be telling you what you want to hear, but it will have advice worth following.


I’m taking a break next week, folks. The Easter Bunny, dressed up as this lovely girl Hawaii 2013 042


is taking me away for the weekend.


Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy writing.